Arlington, VA

Isabel Samaras, who grew up in Arlington, has illustrated the cover of MAD Magazine’s October issue.

The cover is for MAD’s “Super Spooferheroes” issue and depicts Wonder Woman’s “Lasso of Tooth” extracting a tooth from the magazine’s iconic cover boy. Samaras is only the second woman to illustrate a MAD cover in the magazine’s 68 year history.

In addition to creating art for publication and for sale, Samaras is a professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Samaras spent most of her youth in Arlington, attending Glebe Elementary, Swanson Middle School and Washington-Lee (now Washington-Liberty) High School. She describes her younger self as being a bit of an outsider navigating through Arlington Public Schools.

“I was kind of an oddball, out there flapping away on the fringes, a nerd and an art nerd, some kinda double whammy that probably made me socially radioactive,” Samaras said.

Samaras credits her mom for first sparking her interest in art. When Samaras was young, her mother would construct paper dolls for her to play with. Samaras said seeing the possibilities for what an ordinary object could become fascinated her.

“It seemed like an incredible magic trick to me — this ability to make something, to make toys out of humble office supplies,” Samaras said. “I wanted to be able to do that, too.”

In high school, Samaras painted murals around W-L’s building, including seahorses in the cafeteria. She also painted backdrops for the drama department and was the art director for Penman, the school’s literary magazine.

At W-L, Samaras said her art teacher, Roy Anderson, played a huge role in her artistic growth. He encouraged her to try printmaking at a class in George Washington University’s Corcoran School, and motivated her to apply to Parsons School of Design in New York City, where Samaras attended college.

“He really pushed me to try things that were outside my comfort zone,” Samaras said. “I think about Mr. Anderson a lot these days, about the power of a teacher to light candles, to ignite excitement.”

Growing up, Samaras said MAD Magazine was a coveted treat to read. She remains an avid reader of the satirical magazine today, even as its national popularity wanes. To have her work on the cover, and to be the second woman to ever do so, “is a pretty big, tingle down to the toes, thrill,” Samaras said.

“When I was a kid, and for most of my life, I never saw any women artists in MAD, so it didn’t even occur to me as a possibility that someday I’d see my own work there,” Samaras said. “I’m a subscriber — still — so having the issue with my art on the cover show up in the mail was a completely surreal experience.”

The Wonder Woman parody on Samaras’ cover, which keeps with the MAD cover tradition of spoofing pop culture, is also in line with Samaras’ earlier work.

Samaras said her most popular work blends fictional characters with classic historical paintings. She’s painted Frankenstein and his bride as Mary and Joseph in a nativity scene, Batman dressed as a classical lord and a non-frightening Morticia Addams of The Addams Family holding a child.

Lately, Samaras has been doing more personal work, like painting hands to express different emotions. In these pieces, Samaras said she aims to give her audience a glimpse into how she sees the world.

“Ultimately I’m trying to create beauty, but there’s a lot of energy embedded in a painting,” Samaras said. “You spend an enormous amount of time dreaming them up and creating them — it’s not just a metaphor that you pour yourself into them, you really do… But mostly I’m just hoping that there’s a feeling of connection. A painting in a frame is like a tunnel or a window, from my world to you.”

Photos courtesy Isabel Samaras

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Morning Notes

Listing Prices Around HQ2 Skyrocket — “From June 2018 to June 2019, the median asking price for a single-family home in Zip code 22202, home to Amazon’s planned Northern Virginia headquarters, skyrocketed a whopping 99.9 percent–essentially doubling over that period–according to a new report from listings service Bright MLS.” [Curbed, Bloomberg]

Board OKs Child Care Parking Changes — “The Arlington County Board today voted to reduce the parking requirements for child care centers, in keeping with the County’s Child Care Initiative to promote the expansion of accessible, available, high-quality child care throughout the County.” [Arlington County]

New Pizzeria Open on Lee HighwayChicago’s Pizza With A Twist opened a couple of weeks ago on Lee Highway, next to Maya Bistro. The Indian-Italian fusion restaurant serves unique dishes like a chicken tikka masala pizza. [Instagram]

New Pike Bus Stops Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $1.6 million contract with Sagres Construction Corporation to build the first four of 23 transit stations planned for Columbia Pike. Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed by fall 2020.” [Arlington County]

Arlington GOP Sitting Out County Races — “For the most part, Arlington Republicans will be sitting out the November general election – the party did not field candidates for the County Board, School Board and most legislative races on the ballot, although there are several non-Democrats who are running that might attract GOP support.” [InsideNova]

Swanson Middle School Teacher Honored — “Congratulations to @SwansonAdmirals teacher Mary Beth Donnelly who was named the 2019 Virginia History Teacher of the Year.” [Twitter]

Injured D.C. Fire K-9 Stops GW Parkway Traffic Updated at 9 a.m. — “Traffic stopped on the George Washington Parkway near Reagan National Airport Tuesday afternoon so a medevac helicopter could land, but the patient wasn’t human — it was a very special dog. The 6-year-old German shepherd named Kylie works for D.C. Fire and EMS as a cadaver dog… [she] seriously hurt one of her hind legs while helping another law enforcement agency conduct a search.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

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A police officer stepped in to help with an “incident” involving administrators and a substitute teacher at Swanson Middle School earlier today.

An email sent to parents said that a “conversation escalated” between the sub and school officials, prompting a response from the Arlington Public Schools human resources department and a school resource officer.

An APS spokesman declined to provide additional detail about what happened beyond what was written in the email, saying that it was a “personnel issue.”

The full email is below.

Dear Swanson Community,

Today, we had an incident involving our administrators and a substitute teacher.  Because the conversation escalated, we coordinated with school administrators as well as our school resource officer.  We also worked directly with Central Office staff in the APS Human Resources and Administrative Services departments to address the issue, and great efforts were taken to keep the interactions away from students to avoid causing further disruption to the school day. Nonetheless, several students witnessed the individual being escorted off school grounds.

In light of the prevalence of social media and other communication outlets, I wanted to let you know about this in case you see or hear any reports in the community.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at [REDACTED].

Thank you,

Reneé Harber
Principal

Photo via Arlington Public Schools

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(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Swanson Middle School, McKinley Elementary and Ashlawn Elementary were placed in “secure the school” mode Friday morning due to an armed robbery in Fairfax County.

The robbery happened just before 10:30 a.m. in the Willston Center, on the 6100 block of Arlington Blvd. While each are about a mile or more away from the robbery scene, the schools were nonetheless secured as a precaution.

More from Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Harris:

At approximately 10:30 a.m., Swanson, McKinley and Ashlawn enacted our “Secure the School” protocol due to nearby police activity. Students and staff remained safely inside our school buildings for approximately 45 minutes. There was never any danger within the school buildings. A “Secure the School” exercise is not a “Lockdown” protocol. This exercise was in response to police activity within the outside community.

No one was hurt in the robbery, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

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Morning Notes

County Board Candidate Forum Recap — The four Democrats hoping to win Jay Fisette’s seat on the County Board addressed issues such as infrastructure and a real estate tax increase at a candidate forum Wednesday night. [InsideNova]

APS Principal, Teacher Finalists for Honors — An Arlington Public Schools principal and a teacher both are finalists for Washington Post awards. Swanson Middle School Principal Bridget Loft is a finalist for the Principal of the Year Award, and Wakefield High School Teacher Michelle Cottrell-Williams is a finalist for the Teacher of the Year Award. [Washington Post]

Local Student Serves as Speaker — Wakefield High School senior Wisam Mustafa served as the speaker for the 2017 Virginia Model General Assembly program. The three-day session in Richmond included 550 high school students from across the state. Mustafa got to meet Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and House Speaker William Howell (R). [InsideNova]

Closings for Easter — Libraries will be closed on Sunday for the Easter holiday, as will county community centers. Parks will remain open.

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Police car lightsA man in a van drove up next to a Swanson Middle School student yesterday afternoon and tried to ask her a question.

The student, an 11- or 12-year-old girl, ran away before the man stopped speaking. Police were called and the school has notified families of the incident, in an email (below) that includes safety tips for students walking home from school.

The girl was not harmed. Police say they’d like to locate and talk with the van driver.

“We want to identify the individual and speak with him,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage, “but a crime has not occurred.”

Savage said there have been no other reported incidents involving either a van or a suspect that fit the description in this case.

The letter from Swanson Middle School administrators to parents is below.

Dear Parents and Guardians:

We just learned from the Arlington County Police Department that at approximately 3:00 p.m. today, a 12-year-old female student from Swanson Middle School was approached by a man driving a white van. When the man attempted to ask the student a question, she fled to her home. The incident occurred at the intersection of North Carlin Springs Drive and North Park Drive. The suspect is described as a man of American Indian descent, approximately 30 years old.

The student’s mother reported the incident to Arlington County Police and police officers arrived to the scene quickly.

We are grateful that the student was not harmed.

This is a good time for all of us to remind students about some important steps they should always take to ensure their continued safety when they are out in the community, and even take time to role play possible situations with them. Please remind students to:

Always report all incidents immediately to an adult (parent, principal, teacher, resource officer) whenever something occurs that makes them feel unsafe.

  • Be aware of their surroundings.
  • Don’t wear devices that block their hearing or seeing.
  • Avoid talking to, engaging with or answering questions to passersby or strangers.
  • Always walk or bicycle with at least one buddy in well-lit areas.
  • Use a cell phone, if available, to call for help. (If students have cell phones, make sure that emergency numbers are programmed into the phone so they can be dialed quickly. Also, remind your student that the cell phone should not be used during class time at school.)

Working together, all of us can help to insure that our students have a safe community in which they can continue to grow and learn. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Bridget Loft

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Where Arlington Public Schools is planning to put relocatable classrooms in the 2018-2019 school yearMore trailers are coming to Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools.

According to a new report from Arlington Public Schools, the relocatable classrooms have been deemed the best solution to address overcapacity at the two North Arlington schools.

“In light of all of the opportunities and constraints associated with the options under consideration as well as the community feedback that has been received, APS Instruction and Facilities staff has determined that the use of on-site relocatable classrooms is the most effective, flexible, and least disruptive approach to address interim capacity needs at Swanson and Williamsburg middle schools through 2019,” APS said in the report.

APS plans to have 18 trailers in place at Williamsburg and 14 at Swanson, as an temporary solution to overcrowding until the middle school at the site of the former Stratford Junior High is built in 2019, APS said.

APS is using relocatable classrooms at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools because the trailers allow the school to maintain grade-level communities. Grade-level communities allow schools to group classrooms by grade, which increases student interaction with peers and teachers, APS said.

Each trailer costs about $300,000. The new trailers can stand against 90 mile an hour wind and are equipped with bathrooms and water fountains.

“Relocatable classrooms offer the same technology and similar configuration as regular classrooms, and they provide access to water and bathrooms,” APS said. “The staffing and quality of instruction expected from APS schools remain at the same level for both relocatable and traditional classrooms.”

No student would have all their classes during the day in relocatable trailers, the report notes.

“If a grade-level community is located in relocatable classrooms, there are multiple opportunities for students to move to and from the main building throughout the day. For example, students transition to the field space or the gym for physical education, to another classroom for electives, and to the cafeteria for lunch,” APS said.

APS has formed “school-based facilities committees” at Swanson and Williamsburg to evaluate the effectiveness of the trailers while they are at the middle schools.

“These planning groups are actively collaborating with APS staff and school administrators to determine the most appropriate and effective use of the additional relocatable classrooms, given the unique physical and programmatic attributes of each school community,” APS said.

While Williamsburg and Swanson are not the only middle schools facing capacity issues, they are the two with the greatest need.

“All middle schools are projected to be at or over capacity by 2019 and as a result APS will need to address capacity issues at Kenmore, Thomas Jefferson and Gunston in the coming years,” APS said.

As of earlier this year, APS was planning to add six trailers at Kenmore, four at Thomas Jefferson and 13 at Gunston Middle Schools.

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Morning Notes

Donaldson Run meeting the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White)

Heavy Seas Alehouse to Open in Rosslyn — Baltimore brewer Heavy Seas plans to open a restaurant at the newly renovated 1501 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. So far, the existing Baltimore location is the only other Heavy Seas Alehouse besides the one planned for Rosslyn. The restaurant is expected to open by the end of this year. [Washington Business Journal]

Army Ten-Miler Registration to Begin — Registration for the Army Ten-Miler opens at midnight on Wednesday, May 15. This year, 35,000 spots will be available for the October 20 race, instead of 30,000. General admission entries sold out within nine hours last year. [Army Ten-Miler]

Local Eighth Grader Named State’s Top Female Orator — Swanson Middle School eighth grader Dorothee Mulumba won the Virginia State Oratorical Contest on May 4. In total, her scholarship winnings from the local, regional and state competitions add up to $3,000. [Sun Gazette]

McDonnell Signs Transportation Bill — On Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the transportation funding bill into law. The law cuts the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax and raises the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, in addition to adding a $64 registration fee for hybrid vehicles. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White

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Morning Notes

Elliot Hosts Halloween Event in Clarendon — DC101’s Elliot in the Morning is hosting a Halloween Bash at Clarendon Ballroom on Friday night. [Clarendon Nights]

Arlington Seeks More Notable Trees — Arlington County is asking residents to help it identify more unusual, historic or special trees for its Notable Tree registry. [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Biz Group Ponders Silver Line — Is the opening of the Silver Line to Tyson’s Corner a threat or an opportunity for businesses in Arlington? That’s what a group of local business owners discussed yesterday at a meeting organized by Leadership Arlington. [Washington Examiner]

More Swanson Students Riding Bikes to School — Bike ridership at Swanson Middle School is on the rise, according to the CommuterPageBlog. There are now nearly twice as many bikes parked outside the school as two years ago. [CommuterPageBlog]

New Salon Coming to Clarendon — A new salon called Smitten is coming to Clarendon. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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